Telluride, my favorite ski town

November 2, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

A representative from Telluride, CO was in Houston last week. He had a lot to say.

With record breaking tourism in Telluride and a 30 percent increase in available air seats over the last two years, the destination continues to be ranked among the best resorts in the world. Travelers planning trips to Telluride for the winter 2015-16 season will be greeted with added flights, updated lodging options, new restaurants and bars, ski camps, improved grooming and much more. “We celebrated a record season last winter, and with continuing improvements to access, guest services and amenities, we’re giving our guests the best possible experience, whether they are visiting for the first time or loyal repeat guests,” said Michael Martelon President and CEO of Telluride Tourism Board.

United, Colorado’s primary carrier, will continue to expand on its already-existing network to Telluride/Montrose with the addition of highly sought-after flights from New York – La Guardia (LGA). MTJ’s core hub service will continue with multiple daily, year-round flights from DEN, daily service from Houston and Chicago, along with weekend flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco.

LODGING UPDATES
Madeleine Hotel & Residences: Renovations of this iconic hotel are on track for completion by December 2015, including a grand new porte cochere and outdoor pool area, featuring a 24’x50′ pool, hot tubs, fire pits and breathtaking views of the towering mountain peaks. New additions include Dylan’s Candy Bar, M Club and M Studio, and updates to the Black Iron Kitchen and Bar are complete. The hotel has also opened a new Club Room with indoor/outdoor bar, pool table, and shuffleboard, and a new Salon. http://www.madelinetelluride.com/renovations.php

Peaks Resort and Spa: In July 2015, Telluride Ski & Golf (TSG) closed a deal with Peaks Capital Partners to take over the Peaks Resort and Spa. The Peaks Resort and Spa is a ski-in/ski-out, full service hotel located adjacent to the Telluride Ski & Golf Club. The hotel features 177 guest rooms, a 42,000 square foot, 32 treatment rooms spa, indoor and outdoor swimming pools with a waterslide and 9,100 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space. The spa itself is the largest in Colorado in terms of square footage and offers a variety of treatments as well as fitness and wellness programming.

NEW SKI CAMPS AND PROGRAMS
Biomechanics Camp: Biomechanics Camp will teach people of all ages to ski efficiently and in a way that minimizes stress on the body. Dr. Kim Hewson, orthopedic surgeon, former Director of Sports Medicine at the University of Arizona, and a lead Telluride Ski School instructor, has refined a scientific-based biomechanics approach that will be taught at this camp. Camp dates are January 15th – 18th Making Friends with Moguls: This two-day camp will help skiers develop confidence in the bumps while skiing in a small group setting with like-minded and ability skiers. The camp will start out slowly
with proven exercises and progressions to help skiers reach their goals. Making Friends with Moguls Camp dates are January 20th – 21st and February 29th – March 1st Silver Skiers Program: For the 2015-16 season, the Telluride Ski and Snowboard School is offering a special program for skiers 50 years young and up. Two sessions consisting of four Thursdays each will match coaches from the senior ski school staff with smaller groups and will make skiing fun, relaxed and enjoyable for fellow seniors. The program is designed for novice through advanced/hard-core skiers and is meant to focus on the camaraderie formed through skiing with people of similar skill level and with similar interests. The Silver Skiers Program has sessions January 7th – January 28th and February 4th – March 3rd (*Please note there will be no session on February 18, President’s Week*)

NEW MOUNTAIN IMPROVEMENTS
New Grooming Equipment: The resort has added a new Snowcat PistenBully 600 to the fleet,. The fuel-efficient PB600’s wider track and tiller allows Mountain Operations to increase the number of acres that can be accessed in a shorter amount of time, helping the resort better prepare for opening and increase grooming times throughout the season.
Snowmaking Enhancements: To bring more snow to Hoot Brown Terrain Park, TSG is installing Tower Mounts that enable easy relocation of snow guns from other areas of the mountain. Additionally, a new variable frequency drive panel will be installed at Misty Pump House, making it easier for the snowmaking pros to adjust water flow to pumps. TSG is also working with the town of Mountain Village to replace an old water line that is the key supply line for snowmaking.
Sunshine Express (Lift 10): A new gear box has been implemented to improve overall reliability of lift performance and new pulleys have been installed.
Telluride is like no other place with all of this and much more, making it unique, authentic and inspiring. Come experience everything this destination has to offer and discover why Telluride is the most Colorado place on earth.
For further information, or to book a trip, visit www.visittelluride.com.

Family pool at Esperanza, An Auberge Resort, Cabo

October 26, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Parents' Place, Travel Blog

Fun for All Ages

FamilyPool

Travelers of all ages love Esperanza. For families, the Villas are the place to be featuring full kitchens and private plunge pools. Your family will love the largest pool in Cabo with beach entry and swim up bars. The Villas offer partial ownership opportunities and The Residences at Esperanza offer full and partial ownership – for those of you who want to own a piece of this beautiful seaside town.

Esperanzaresort.com

TEE IT UP AND LET ’ER RIP—IN LAKE CHARLES, LA!

October 14, 2015 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

Don’t miss these golf getaways, with way more than just miles of greens.

by Greg Wettman

The Golden Nugget Resort and Casino (www.goldennugget.com/lakecharles)

The Country Club at the Golden Nugget

The Country Club at the Golden Nugget

For Houstonians searching for a fun weekend golf getaway, look no further than Lake Charles, Louisiana (www.visitlakecharles.org), only two hours east of Houston, just off I-10. An ideal place to call home while in Lake Charles is the Golden Nugget Resort and Casino, which is perched along Contraband Bayou. Besides incredible golf, there is so much to do at the Golden Nugget, which just opened in December 2014, that you don’t really need to drive your car again until you head home—unless, of course, you are searching for another golf course to play, or a local restaurant, which I do recommend.

The Country Club golf course at the Golden Nugget is located on the edge of Contraband Bayou. It is well designed and maintained, and very appealing to the eye. The greens are as good as any I have ever played on—bar none. When I stepped on the putting green, I felt like I was in golf heaven. The course is outstanding. There are many waste bunkers on the course that stop errant shots from disappearing from play, and the staff treats you like a king.

As impressive as the golf course is, the clubhouse is in the same class. The dining room is exquisite, and the food otherworldly. I had a special entrée of rainbow trout almandine that I’m still savoring.

At the Golden Nugget, the pool complex—the H2O Pool & Bar—is lavish and irresistible, with a lazy river and two flume rides. There’s also an awesome wet bar; multiple “islands” in the pool called daybeds; and a state-of-the-art concert stage, which features live musical performances at various times throughout the year. You can swim up to the wet bar, order your favorite beverage, charge it to your room and then float along the lazy river while listening to a top-of-the-line band nearby. That’s what I call relaxation. The pool area also features 250 chaise lounge chairs, 34 private cabanas, six fire pits and several hot tubs. Bottom line at the Golden Nugget: If you’re not playing golf, the pool is the place to be!

The Golden Nugget Spa & Salon is adjacent to the H2O Pool & Bar, very convenient if you’re craving a midday massage, manicure, pedicure or facial. At the Spa, you will also find a sauna, steam room, whirlpool and a fitness room with state-of-the-art Cybex cardio and weight equipment.

When it comes to breaking bread at the Golden Nugget, you are truly spoiled for choice. Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse, Landry’s Seafood House, Lillie’s, Cadillac Mexican Kitchen, Saltgrass Steak House, Grotto and Claim Jumper are just a few of the dining options available. When it comes to a spur-of-the-moment dessert, The Chocolate Box offers gourmet handmade truffles and chocolates from around the world.

If you want to relax at a beach, the Golden Nugget has you covered. During the day, you can sunbathe, play beach volleyball, or stroll along the waters of the Contraband Bayou. After sunset, the fire pits on the beach are aglow, providing the perfect place to unwind after a busy day at the resort. The Cadillac Beach Bar & Grille is right on the beach and offers great margaritas and food.

If you have any energy left after a fun-in-the-sun kind of day, there is a large, beautiful place right in the middle of the complex called a casino! Since you have already had the good luck to find the Golden Nugget, you might as well find an exciting table game or slot machine to top off your day.

L’Auberge Casino Resort and the Contraband Bayou Golf Club (www.llakecharles.com)

Next door to the Golden Nugget is another awesome place to play, the L’Auberge Casino Resort and the Contraband Bayou Golf Club. The Contraband Bayou Golf Club is a Tom Fazio design and the only public Fazio course in Louisiana. In 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, Golfweek named this course one of the “Best Places to Play in Louisiana.” That is a well-earned endorsement. It is a blast to play. Eight spectacular lakes are found on this course. When you record a subpar score on any hole at Contraband, you can say that you recorded a birdie on the bayou. The signature hole is the downhill par three 8th—it’s a visual masterpiece and fun to play.

L'Auberge Casino and Contraband Golf Club

L’Auberge Casino and Contraband Bayou Golf Club

The resort has a very warm and comfortable atmosphere with a design inspired by the Texas Hill Country, and offers several unique dining options. Breakfast at Favorites Southern Kitchen includes what I believe are the perfect beignets and a stuffed Brioche French Toast like nowhere else. Embers Steakhouse is elegant, romantic and delicious. If you dare, order the 40-ounce bone-in rib eye. I guarantee you will not forget it. L’auberge also has a huge pool area with a lazy river and large, first-class casino. The hospitality shown by the entire staff ensures a return trip will be scheduled.

More Courses

Gray Plantation Golf Course, The National Golf Club of Louisiana and Mallard Cove Golf Course are three more excellent courses to try in the Lake Charles area. At Gray Plantation, the view of the plantation-style clubhouse from the 18th tee caps off an experience that is filled with many sightseeing and shot-making opportunities. Plantation is impressive, especially its four-par threes, two of which have island greens. Lunch on the veranda after golf was superb. I recommend their Pressed Pork sandwich.

At the National Golf Club, which opened in 2009, there are generous landing areas off the tee. The rolling terrain and over-sized greens give you many different shots during any given round. If you pay attention to pin positions with your approach shots, it’s possible to get up and down for par more often than not.

Mallard Cove is a favorite of the locals and is the site of the annual Lake Charles City Championships. The 18th hole at Mallard Cove is one of the most unique finishing holes in golf, as it has multiple options from the tee. The key to success at the 18th hole is to avoid the water at all costs with your tee shot. There are three routes to take off the tee. Mallard has a very nice new clubhouse with a bar and restaurant. It’s a top-tier municipal facility.

Each of the courses I’ve mentioned is in a class of its own and fun to play. All five courses are as appealing to the scratch golfer as they will be to the weekend warrior. All five are also bargains for their respective green fees, which range from around $25 to $160.

Local Eats

The Lake Charles area has many great local restaurants. Two I have visited are local favorites, The Seafood Palace and the recently opened 1910 Restaurant and Wine Bar. The Seafood Palace is not fancy, just really great food. It has the best fried alligator I’ve eaten, and the boiled blue crabs are delicious. 1910 features Cajun/Creole dishes that are infused with a French backbone. Everything I sampled was worth coming downtown for, and the atmosphere is elegant, but relaxed.

It will take more than one weekend to enjoy all of the top-notch golf, dining, gaming and relaxation options that the Lake Charles area has to offer. But that’s okay. It’s only two hours away. As the locals say: Bon temps! (Let the good times roll!)

Grande Lakes Orlando

September 29, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Orlando you glad to see me?

Avoid Mickey Mouse crowds. Enjoy Grande Lakes

By Laurette Veres

As a life-long Marriott rewards devotee, I’ve logged a lot of nights at hotels under this flag throughout the globe. My friend Bobby and I often text each other our view withIMG_7486 the question where am I? On a recent trip to Orlando Grande Lakes, I texted him my view. His reply: Maui. That’s how beautiful this 500-acre Orlando resort is. Our balcony had a view of the sprawling golf coursOrlando_Grande_Lakes_Golf_Coursee, beautiful lakes and most of Orlando’s famed parks in the distance. Heading to Orlando? Avoid Mickey Mouse crowds. Enjoy Grande Lakes comprised of The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott Orlando. Guests at both hotels can enjoy all the facilities and services at Grande Lakes Orlando, including the 18-hole championship golf course, designed by Greg Norman, the 40,000-square-foot Ritz-Carlton Spa with total-wellness treatments and a rooftop eco-space. The lush grounds offer walking trails, nature installations and two grand pools, splash pads, and winding river.

Dine

Highball & Harvest 

Grande Lakes has been dedicated to farm-to-fork dining for over ten years. Guests can view fresh herbs, vegetables and more in the Primo Garden, and taste them in their food at award-winning Chef Melissa Kelly’s Primo restaurant. The property also bakes all their bread in house and raises chickens at the Whisper Creek Farm coop. We met with Chef de Cuisine Mark Jeffers after the recent opening of Highball & Harvest. Having grown up on the water, the Daytona, Florida native pulls his culinary inspiration from his home state. H&H’s signature dishes: Pig-n-Potatoes, an all-day breakfast dish of poached egg, potato hash, and tender pork cheeks with sweet peppers, caramelized onions, H&H Hot Sauce, and hollandaise sauce. Smoked Lamb Brisket, Raw Oyster Bar with signature house-made H&H Hot Sauce. “The dishes we create at Highball & Harvest are designed to give restaurant-goers a sense of nostalgia while enjoying southern classics infused with regional flavors,” says the chef.

Whisper Creek Farm: The Kitchen

Showcasing a rustic yet polished design, The Kitchen has the vibe of eating in your family’s kitchen, with a variety of communal, high-top, sofa, outdoor, and bar seating. Menu items at The Kitchen feature seasonal ingredients from the 7,000-square-foot on-site garden at Whisper Creek Farm as well as fresh eggs daily from the farm’s chicken coop. The Kitchen’s sausages and charcuterie, prepared by the JW Marriott butcher, pair perfectly with The Brewery’s hops-laden creations.

Whisper Creek Farm: The Brewery

The first Marriott property to launch a nano-brewery, Grande Lakes has brought in a local Cicerone-certified brewmaster to lead The Brewery. The Brewery produces 28 gallons of beer weekly including five styles of beer created each season—Dark, Wheat/Light, Amber, IPA and a Special Brew (a seasonal made from the freshest farm ingredients). Signature Special Brew varieties will include the Maple Bacon Stout, Soup of the Day IPA, and Ghost Pepper Wheat.

Spa
Grande_Lakes_Spa_PoolThe secluded lush gardens at the Spanish-Moorish style The Ritz-Carlton Spa Orlando create a relaxing environment. They surround over 40,000 square feet of spa facilities, including 40 treatment rooms. Unique to the Ritz are treatments in the outdoor Rooftop Eco-Space and herb garden. The Eco-Hammock Massage combines “zero gravity” and massage techniques including Thai stretching, deep tissue and Cranial Sacral (balancing the central nervous system through neck massage). Allow yourself to melt into the hammock as it rocks in a soothing, rhythmic motion. The therapist lies under the hammock and digs into your shoulders with her heels. Fitness classes include Yoga Stretch, ZUMBA, Tai Chi Qi Gong, INSANITY, Spinning and Cardio Kickboxing.

Orlando_Grande_Lakes_PoolThe grounds at Grande Lakes property are reason enough to visit. We spent hours walking and along the way, learned about local flora and fauna, butterflies and more. Perfect for families, or couples, there is something for everyone here. And yes, they’ll shuttle you to Disney World.

Tricia Covel launches golf apparel “Swing Dish”

August 21, 2015 by  
Filed under Beauty & Fashion, Blogs, Travel Blog

LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 18:  Recording artist Toby Keith (L) and SwingDish creator and designer Tricia Covel attend the SwingDish Launch Event at The Country Club at Wynn Las Vegas on August 18, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Swingdish)

LAS VEGAS, NV – AUGUST 18: Recording artist Toby Keith (L) and SwingDish creator and designer Tricia Covel attend the SwingDish Launch Event at The Country Club at Wynn Las Vegas on August 18, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Swingdish)

Top names in fashion and the professional golf celebrated the newest line of women’s golf apparel at a party hosted by “Swingdish”at the iconic (Steve) Wynn Country Club. Championed by designer Tricia Covel, Swingdish is a signature line of luxury women’s golf apparel and accessories.

Joining the celebration were executives from golf courses around the country, fashion insiders, PGA representatives, and Covel’s husband, country music hall-of-famer and avid golfer, Toby Keith.

Over the course of her life, Covel had a love for fashion and developed a late love for the game of golf. This new found passion also lead to her partnership and current role overseeing operations at the Belmar Golf Club in her Oklahoma hometown.

Realizing there was a significant void in golf apparel for women, Covel, along with daughters Krystal & Shelley, worked with an Ohio-based creative team to create Swingdish. The fashion line includes women’s golf shorts, shirts, skorts and accessories that are functional and practical while keeping an eye on style.

LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 18:  SwingDish creator and designer Tricia Covel (C) attends the SwingDish Launch Event at The Country Club at Wynn Las Vegas on August 18, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Swingdish)

LAS VEGAS, NV – AUGUST 18: SwingDish creator and designer Tricia Covel (C) attends the SwingDish Launch Event at The Country Club at Wynn Las Vegas on August 18, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Swingdish)

 

 

The Swingdish collection is individualistic and timeless, creating a sentimental
place in any athlete’s wardrobe. The unique line offers a successful mix of high style and
functionality perfect for all women.

The Magical Island of Fano

July 26, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

by Dick Dace

When Barbara invited me to join her family holiday on Fano, an island where her family has vacationed for more than forty years, I was thrilled. When she told me the houses were built by hobbits, the beaches were covered in jewels, and dragons flew in the sky, I said, Absolutely!

Fano is a small, picture-perfect barrier island in the North Sea. People from all over northern Europe flock to the island, not just for the sun or plethora of seashells, but for the ruby-red, blood-orange, and daffodil-yellow amber, the fossilized tree sap from the Jurassic period. This gorgeous garnet brings people from around the world and to their knees to dig through the flotsam and jetsam pushed ashore by southwestern storms.

They arrive promptly at 10 am, in any weather, rain or shine, and flock like birds to one of the widest and deepest beachs in the world. The beaches were broadened by the north sea’s currents that have moved thousands of tons of Moroccan sand from Sylt, its neighboring island.

“I found one!” Barbara screamed, to no one in particular. Did she really jump up and down?

I confess I wanted to know the size and color, but instead I said nothing, and doubled my efforts.

Fano is only accessible by a twenty-minute ferry ride from Esbjerg, Denmark, a vibrant port city with regularly scheduled service to Iceland and Norway. This tiny paradise is a summer and winter playground for anyone looking for the perfect beach getaway with beautiful scenery and adorable wild animals, which reminded me: Where are those dragons?

While no Game of Thrones-worthy winged reptile yet, by day two, I had checked off gem-covered beaches and now, hobbit-built homesteads. Slung low, close to the ground, their roofs made from local reeds, the homes remarkably resemble Bilbo Baggins’ cottage in the Shire. And Fano’s answer to the Shire is every bit as magical. Practical too, especially for tourists, as more than 300 homes on the island are for rent, many with a pool or sauna, and able to comfortably accommodate 6, 8, even 12 people.

Originally, Fano was a center for shipbuilding and whale hunting. After the invention of the steamship, Fano reinvented itself as a place for those seeking a seaside cure. People still come to Fano for what ails them to this day, enjoying its sea breezes and its sun. And those dragons!

Whether they pushed the pronunciation a little bit, or I was guilty of magical hearing, I eventually discovered that my friends were actually saying Drachens, the Germany word for kites. Some days, the Fano sky is so filled with kites there isn’t a lot of room for dragons. Some kites are so large, people use them to surf the sand, or to pull their three-wheeled buggies back and forth along the beach. The display is vibrant, constantly moving, with geometric shapes in rainbow colors zipping, swooping, curving, and diving against a brilliant blue background. No surprise Fano is home to several national kite flying clubs.

But not all the charming sights of Fano are overhead. In fact, one of the many perks of waking up early on Fano is watching the local inhabitants begin their day. Standing in the kitchen one morning, I spied a white tail, four-point buck, crossing the road in front of our house near the beach. His mother must have loved him very much, because he looked both ways before crossing. Within seconds, a large jack rabbit just flat out ran (pun intended) and leaped across the street with a hop and a jump.

After lunch one day, Barbara’s brother Hansjoerg and I took a bicycle tour of the island, which at its longest point, is about five miles long. Scattered across the island are more than 300 monolithic concrete anti-aircraft above-ground bunkers that the Germans built during World War II to protect the it from an Allied invasion. The largest, now mostly buried by the dunes, has only two turrets and one entrance visible. They’ve all seem to have been forgotten except one, located near the beach, and noticeable by the “Free Love” emblazoned on its side by a local graphic artist. Today, its more practical use is as a marker for where to park one’s car.

Another afternoon, we went on safari, which, granted, sounds a bit out of the ordinary for a placid island getaway. But it was extraordinary because it was an oyster safari. No pith helmet required.

Apparently, cargo ships have entered port with several hundred stowaway Gulf Oysters on board. When the ship flushed its bilge water, the oysters were deposited directly into the delicate ecosystem of Fano. These oysters filter a gallon of water an hour. The local clams filter only a gallon of water a day. Making oyster safaris a very valuable ecological tool to try to keep this invasive species in check. Our guide, Thomas, took us to the port side of the harbor, and with buckets in-hand, we walked out into the water. And walked. And walked. It took my fellow safari mates and I nearly an hour at steady pace—45 minutes to be exact—before the waters began to rise above our ankles. I started to wonder if Sylt had any beaches left. At that point, all we had to do was simply reach down and within five minutes, pull up a bucketful of three-to four-year-old oysters.

Thomas showed us several ways to eat our harvest. He started a charcoal fire, and roasted the oysters in their own juices for several few minutes, before opening and adding different toppings to the oysters, including strawberries, pico de gallo and Italian dressing. We decided that the ones we liked best were the oysters served raw, straight from the shell.

Soon, our week on Fano was over. However, renting a shire-style bungalow is as easy as it is convenient, and instead of sad goodbyes, conversation quickly turned to planning our return. We comforted ourselves with the knowledge that within a year, we would all be back, in a cottage complete with a furnished kitchen and all the other amenities of home, affording us the opportunity to meet locals and other travelers, and actually “live” this island life. While it’s great fun to take turns cooking, if we decided not to, we had a more than generous selection of restaurants on the island, everyone serving the freshest fish. If you prefer a less do-it-your-self type of vacation, there are a few hotels and guest houses available.  But no matter where you decide to stay, you’re sure to find, as I did, that Fano is the perfect place to find a truly magical adventure—dragons, or drachens, included.

www.visitfano.dk

www.kitefliersmeetingfanoe.de

 

 

Holiday in July at JW in San Antonio

July 21, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

SAVINGS, FUN & SUN WITH SANTA AT

JW MARRIOTT SAN ANTONIO HILL COUNTRY RESORT AND SPA

Santa Claus Soaks in Some Sun at the Popular Hill Country Resort

Swim with Santa at the JW Marriott San Antonio

Swim with Santa at the JW Marriott San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO – July 21, 2015JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa welcomes Santa Claus as he takes some time to kick back and enjoy the Hill Country scenery and laid back pace.  The resort will host Santa on Saturday, July 25 from 4 p.m.to 7 p.m. and will celebrate his arrival with a 72-hour room sale open to everyone for booking select days at 55%-60% off regular high season rates.  Room rates are for arrival stays November 22-29, 2015 and December 6, 2015 – January 3, 2016, some blackout days apply.  In recognition of Santa’s summer vacation and a “Christmas in July” spirit, the 72-hour sale will begin July 24 and end July 26.

 

The 72-hour sale rates are $149 per night for a resort room and $169 for a resort room with a view. No booking codes needed and reservations may be made at www.jwsanantonio.com or www.jwholidaysale.com or by calling 210.276.2500.  Rates are per room, per night; taxes and resort fees are additional.

 

With six-acres of water slides, pools and lounge areas, Santa will enjoy acting like a kid again while soaking up some sun and fun with resort guests.  Wearing his resort attire, guests will be able to spot Santa splashing in the pools, floating down the lazy river and climbing the stairs to the tower slides during the late morning.  Along with his elves, the jolly guy looks forward to talking with kids and their parents before he begins working long days at the North Pole making his lists and checking them twice.  Holiday-themed activities and offerings will be featured for resort guests that day to celebrate Santa’s visit.

“The JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa is delighted to welcome Santa Claus as he rests and restores for his busy season.   We are excited that our guests can interact with him giving them another delightful memory to take home from their experiences at the resort,” said Mary Jo Ferrazza, director of experience, JW Marriott San Antonio.

 

The resort will add some surprise twists to the day with holiday themed activities such as temporary tattoos, holiday cookie decorating, roasting peppermint chocolate s’mores and more.  Elves will be seen roaming about the interior and exterior of the hotel passing out treats to those caught being kind to others. Young travelers will have the opportunity to float, swim and slide with Santa Claus for a few hours that morning before he sneaks away for some time in the resort’s spa and sharpening his golf game on one of the TPC San Antonio’s two PGA TOUR courses.

 

 

 

 

 

Escape to Belize with Special Rates from Pelican Reef Villas Resort

July 6, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

HOUSTON, TX (July 7, 2015) – Travelers looking for a steal on island beach getaways can celebrate with reduced rates at the Pelican Reef Villas Resort. Summer rates have been reduced an additional 15% off of low season rates for a total discount of 40%. This season, Pelican Reef Villas Resort gives guests the opportunity to experience unforgettable summer fun by the Caribbean Sea in a luxury resort for a unique seasonal price. All rates include complimentary breakfast.

 

Guests staying at the Pelican Reef Villas Resort should note that details and days of availability vary as follows:

Beachfront Villa2 BR (1-2 guests) $239.40

2 BR (3-4 guests) $329.40

3 BR (1-6 guests) $419.40

Pool/Ocean View2 BR (1-2 guests) $191.40

2 BR (3-4 guests) $281.40

3 BR (1-6 guests) $359.40

Pool/Garden View2 BR (1-2 guests) $173.40

2 BR (3-4 guests) $257.40

3 BR (1-6 guests) $299.40

*Valid for redemption until December 19, 2015. Offer valid any day of the week. Promotion is subject to change. May be booked by emailing or calling reservations office. Not to be used with existing reservations or in conjunction with any other offers or specials. Additional restrictions may apply. All rates are in US Dollars and exclude a 9% Belize Hotel Tax.

 

The serene property of 23 villas is located at San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize. The small and exclusive resort allows every guest to enjoy a personalized vacation. Only steps away from the Caribbean Sea, each villa features fully equipped kitchens, satellite TV, free WiFi, queen-size beds with pillow-top mattresses, washer and dryer, Eco Fresh bath products and central air conditioning. 

 

The Pelican Reef Villas Resort provides the perfect setting for all visitors seeking select travel experiences from romantic getaways to adventure-driven itineraries to memorable wedding ceremonies. The resorts offers upscale amenities including an outdoor bar, an on-site restaurant, beach spa services, room service, an infinity pool with waterfall and wet-bar access, an on-site activities center, bikes and kayaks, golf cart rentals, a snorkeling reef underneath private pier, loungers with umbrellas, hammocks and luxurious interiors. Activity packages are also available for guests during their stay at the resort and allow visitors to participate in activities ranging from scuba adventures, jungle zip lines, fishing excursions, sailing, river cave tubing, snorkeling, jet skiing and much more.

 

The Pelican Reef Villas Resort’s location is steps away from the beach, walking distance to several restaurants and a short drive to the San Pedro town.

 

To reserve your room or to view a full list of amenities and packages of the Pelican Reef Villas Resort, please visit www.pelicanreefvillas.com, call (281) 394-3739 or email the Reservations Manager at info@pelicanreefvillas.com.

About Pelican Reef Villas Resort:Named one of the Best Hotels in Belize by TripAdvisor, the Pelican Reef Villas Resort is an exclusive property nestled between private homes on Ambergris Caye, Belize. The resort provides a combination of 23 two- and three-bedroom luxury villas in a personalized and relaxing setting. Upscale amenities include complimentary WiFi, satellite TVs, outdoor bar, a beautiful infinity pool with wet-bar access, room service, beach spa services, private snorkeling pier, pool loungers, furnished balconies, fully equipped kitchens and central air conditioning.

 

The retreat also offers guests customized packages for weddings, romantic getaways, adventure experiences or relaxing escapes that can include scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing jungle zip lines, river cave tubing and much more. The resort’s ideal location is only steps away from the Caribbean Sea, the world’s second largest barrier reef and only three miles from the town of San Pedro. For additional information or to book your stay, please visit www.pelicanreefvillas.com and follow us on  Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Florida’s Emerald Waters Entice Houston Travelers: Visit Destin Now

June 29, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Destin

Florida’s Emerald Waters Entice Houston Travelers

by Laurette M. Veres

ND_Beach3Once a sleepy fishing village, Destin Fl. has grown into a world-class vacation destination. Tourists were initially drawn to the pristine beaches and crystal clear waters. In the mid 1980s condo towers began popping up along the beach to house the visitors, with housing came more visitors, restaurants, shopping, excursions and all the trimmings of a resort city.

The Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park just completed a $4 million dollar renovation. The beachside park features up close experiences with sea lions, otters, sharks and other marine life and entertains the whole family. The dolphins are the stars here and you can spend hours looking through the portals of their giant pavilion watching them swim. Sometimes they swim over and watch you!

Newman-Dailey offers the perfect Destin rental properties

Newman-Daily offers the perfect Destin rental properties

You can also look for dolphins in the wild. The 73 foot Sea Blaster heads out most evenings for a sunset cruise. The entertaining crew knows where the dolphins hang out and soon they’ll be swimming all around the boat. After watching dolphins at the Gulfarium, even the youngest kids can spot them in the open ocean.

 

Life in Destin revolves around gorgeous emerald green waters, sugar white beaches and sunshine.  To truly enjoy your stay, you want a place by the water. Resorts, high-rise condo rentals and immaculate water front homes dot the beach; quaint neighborhoods of beachy homes are nearby. Find your dream vacation rental through Newman-Dailey Resort Properties. The Royal Bahamian is a cute cottage in Crystal Beach. Just off the beach, it’s an easy walk down to the water. One block away is Camille’s, a casual and comfortable eatery.

Destin is family friendly and full of activities, dining and views. You can fly in to Fort Walton Beach airport, or make the eight-nine hour drive from Houston. Once you’re there, stay awhile- it’s time to relax.

 

The Culinary Wonderland of Calgary

March 5, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Words and photos by Dick Dace

At the junction of the Bow and Elbow rivers in the grassland of Alberta, Canada, Calgary’s downtown spires of glass and steel rise like the oil derricks of old, pumping Texas gold throughout every facet of the city. Calgary is an economic little sister to Houston, both shaped by a past of land and cattle, and a future fueled by oil and gas. Each city is also the beneficiary of the largess of its famous wildcatters, whose gifts to their citizens include outdoor art, an opera, symphony, avant-garde theatres, museums and culinary excellence.

 

After a short four-hour flight on Continental Airlines, we arrived in time to attend the VISA Infinite dinner at CHARCUT Roast House, recently named one of Canada’s Best New Restaurants by enRoute magazine. CHARCUT Roast House owners and chefs, Connie DeSousa and John Jackson, were joined in the kitchen by Food Network CA and Iron Chef star Chuck Hughes of Montreal’s Garde Manger restaurant and Paul Rogalski of Calgary-based Rouge Restaurant, one of San Pellegrino SpA’s Top 100 Best Restaurants in the World.

 

The menu was served family style, helping showcase our hosts’ farm-to-table philosophy. The menu consisted of Jungle Farms Pumpkin Soup served tableside in a 250 lb pumpkin, a Whole Roast Baerd Farm’s Goat filled with County Sausage (think a Canuck turducken), Charred Brussels Sprouts from Innisfail Farms with Shaved Lardo, followed by Warm Stick Toffee BC quince Pudding with Maple Praline Chantilly Cream, paired with Beer Steward Kirk Bodner’s personal selection of local hand-crafted beers.

 

“We don’t employ a sommelier,” explained Jackson. “Most people know their wines and we want to promote our local breweries, as well as our local farmers.”  This was a philosophy we were to find expressed by other chefs in Calgary, as well.

 

After a night’s rest in the new Hotel Le Germain Calgary, which is heated and cooled by thermal energy, and centrally located in the downtown business zone, it was time for a little exploring.

 

First up was Stephen Avenue, a pedestrian-friendly street lined with shops, restaurants and bars and where some 60,000 office workers gather daily in the summer for lunch at its sidewalk cafes. The shoppers in our group were thrilled to find Fashion Central, home to many local and Canadian fashion designer boutiques stocked with many beautiful and unique fashions. A block over on 7th Avenue was Art Central, a three-story building housing galleries and studios of local and regional jewelry, sculpture, paper and oil artists.

 

We decided on lunch at Catch, a local fish emporium known for its “jet-fresh” seafood that was named Best New Restaurant in Canada by enRoute magazine the year it opened. Executive chef Kyle Groves shared with us that every day at 10:30 a.m. is an Iron Chef moment – that is when his daily shipment of seafood arrives. “I never know what the daily special will be until then – and we open at 11 am!” The lunch he prepared for us consisted of a Seafood Tower stacked high with lobster, shrimp, mussels, clams and scallops, with a side of braised double-smoked bacon with truffle maple syrup.

 

Dinner was another culinary treat at Divino Wine and Cheese Bistro, known for serving naturally raised game, from its own ranch. Chef John Donovan prepared a feast of Sweet Corn Bisque with Corn Flan and BC Striped Shrimp; Roasted Alberta Rack of Lamb with Potatoes Fondant, Fraser Valley Roasted Beets, Swiss Chard and Olive Tapenade Jus; Black Pepper Linguine with chicken, tomatoes, spinach and sesame seeds in a white wine cream sauce, and for dessert, Baked Vanilla Rice Pudding with Mango Glass Biscuit and Passion Fruit Coulis. The cheese course included La Tomme D’Elles, a firm sheep’s and cow’s milk floral from Charlevoix; Ermite Blue, a tangy semi-soft Blue that is monastery produced in Quebec; and Champfleury, a soft, washed-rind, mildly pungent cheese also from Quebec. The meal left us asking, where does all this amazing food come from?

 

We found out when CHARCUT’s owners and chefs, DeSousa and Jackson, invited us to breakfast and to join them on their daily visit to the farmers who supply all the restaurants meats and vegetables. But first, we enjoyed breakfast with their baker, Aviv Fried with Sidewalk Citizen Bakery (who got his start by delivering his breads by bicycle.)

 

At their communal table, Fried, who has an undergrad degree in physics and mathematics, learned the art and science of bread making in Tibet, among other places, had laden the table with still warm-from-the-oven scones and breads. DeSousa and Jackson provided the jams, preserves and coffee that made the meal complete, and that provided us with the substance for our trek to the farmers.

 

About twenty minutes away, in an old airplane hanger, Alberta area farmers had gathered to sell their fresh produce. Blaine and Leona Stapes and their family own Innisfail Farms, and grow everything from pumpkins to spinach. They even have different refrigerators for each type of produce, so they can maintain the perfect temperature to ensure freshness.

 

CHARCUT’s pig farmer Greg Spragg and his family were selling links, sausages, butts and roasts at their booth, Spragg’s Meat Shop. Their farm also consists of 200 acres of irrigated land on which barley, wheat and fava beans are grown to feed their hungry pigs. But large farms are not the only source of produce for chefs in Calgary.

 

Executive chef Mike Decker at Rouge Restaurant, has five city lots on the banks of the Bow River, in the historic community of Inglewood, just 5 minutes from downtown, on which he grows “every herb imaginable, as well lettuces, carrots, beets and berries.”

 

“The whole kitchen team tends the garden,” Decker explained. “It is truly prized by all of us, and nothing could be more flavorful.”

 

Which just proves the point, for food full of flavor nothing beats farm-to-table freshness.

 

# # #

Dick Dace was a guest of Hotel Le Germain Calgary.

 

Resources:

 

Hotel Le Germain Calgary

www.GermainCalgary.com

 

CHARCUT Roast House

www.CharCut.com

 

Catch Restaurant

www.CatchRestaurant.com

 

Divino

www.CRMR.com/Divino

 

Aviv Fried

www.SidewalkCitizenBakery.com

 

Spraggs Meat Shop

www.SpraggsMeatShop.com

 

Innisfail Growers

www.InnisfailGrower.com

 

Rouge Restaurant

www.RougeCalgary.com

 

New Mexico is ready for Spring Break

March 2, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

STORMS ROLL IN AS NEW MEXICO ROLLS ON WITH SOME OF THE NATION’S BEST SKIING
As New Storms Blanket The Mountains
Angel Fire Resort Preps for a Busy Spring Break

Powder: New Mexico is ready for Spring Break

Powder: New Mexico is ready for Spring Break

ANGEL FIRE, NM – As storms continue to hammer Northern New Mexico dropping five feet of snow over Angel Fire Resort, skiing and riding conditions just keep getting better.  The snowfall from this past storm is leading into what the state’s ski resorts hope to be a record-setting spring season.
 

“These are definitely the conditions that everyone loves,” explains Dan Swanson, director of marketing, Angel Fire Resort.  “Over five feet of new snow in the past 10 days has given us the best conditions of the season. With more storms heading our way and with the next couple of weeks packed with lively Spring Break events, hopefully it offers everyone a chance to come up and experience the best that Angel Fire has to offer.”

With 100% of the ski mountain now open and a 76” snow base, Angel Fire Resort enjoyed record skier visits over the President’s Day holiday weekend and a Veteran’s Appreciation Weekend they held in late February. Now the resort is focusing on Fiesta Del Sol, the Spring Break festival that lasts from March 6 – 19. Typically the state’s northern mountains see an uptick in storms in late February and March creating great conditions, which should continue through the resort’s extended spring break. After a staggering amount of snow topping 60 inches, meteorologists in the area predict another round of storms for the southwest through this week.

“We were optimistic that we would have a great snow year and that’s how things are panning out.  With more on the way we are looking at incredible snow conditions leading into March,” Swanson adds.

SPRING BREAK
As part of Fiesta Del Sol which runs March 6-19, Angel Fire Resort will run a Dos Equis Big Airbag March 9 – 11 and again March 16 – 18.  The activity will take place on Exhibition just above the base of the mountain. Skiers and snowboarders will ride down a ramp and off a jump into the inflatable 50×50 foot airbag. Participants must be at least 21 and wear a helmet. The Bag is free, with a valid lift ticket for all brave enough to try it and includes a free Dos Equis beer in any of the resort’s dining outlets

Additionally the resort will host a Dos Equis Most Interesting Ski Run on the backside of the mountain, a Most Interesting Bar in the base village, a Pi Day Party on March 14, a St. Patrick’s Day Party, a dummy launch, live music and outdoor grills throughout the entire Fiesta Del Sol event. There will also be daily night skiing available.

For more details about Angel Fire spring break rates, trails and reservations go to www.angelfireresort.com or call (855) 923-7387.

STORM AND DOS ESQUIS BIG AIR BAG PHOTOS LINK: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B9Xy7iv-fGjYTGx1QkZadXJuaGM&usp=drive_web

The Inn at Dos Brisas Now Offers an All-Inclusive Experience

February 3, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

WASHINGTON, Tex., Feb. 2, 2015 – The Inn at Dos Brisas, a Relais & Châteaux ranch resort located in the eastern foothills of the Texas Hill Country, has become an all-inclusive property, offering distinctive, customized experiences and unlimited access to a wide range of amenities.

 

“We are delighted to announce this new pricing structure,” states Managing Director Steve Shotsberger. “This gives us the freedom to elevate the exceptional service we provide for our 28 guests. For example, the Inn’s culinary team liaises with each visitor prior to arrival to discuss creative private dining capabilities and preferences.”

Available now, The Inn at Dos Brisas’ all-inclusive rates begin at $1,069 per night, based on double occupancy, for 750-sq.-ft. casita accommodations and $1,399 per night, based on double occupancy, for 1,795-sq.-ft. hacienda accommodations. Rates include all meals, culinary experiences such as cooking/baking classes and farm tours, and resort activities including horseback riding lessons and clay shooting. Wine tastings, mixology classes and spa services are available for an additional fee.

A list of detailed inclusions is below:

  • Welcome amenity
  • Full breakfast made-to-order and delivered to guests’ accommodations
  • Sunday brunch in the Inn’s Forbes Travel Guide Five-star restaurant
  • Lunch in the lounge, on the patio, in guests’ accommodations or picnic-style anywhere on the property
  • Dinner in the restaurant’s dining room or guests’ accommodations
  • Sundown Social, featuring a wine and cheese reception each afternoon
  • All activities including fishing, clay shooting, horseback riding lessons, trail rides, hayrides, horse-drawn carriage rides, tennis, swimming, cycling, basketball, yoga, cooking classes, baking classes, organic farming classes, archery, Frisbee golf, birthplace of Texas geo-caching tour and stargazing
  • Unlimited use of fishing equipment, tennis equipment, bicycles, croquet, badminton, horseshoes, movies, board games and access to fantastic trails for hiking or touring with guests’ golf cart
  • Wet bar fully stocked with locally made non-alcoholic beverages
  • Assortment of The Inn at Dos Brisas’ signature coffees and teas
  • Sweet treat delivered to guests’ accommodations each evening
  • High speed wireless internet throughout the property
  • Unlimited local calls
  • Daily housekeeping
  • Nightly turndown service
  • Access to the resort’s private helicopter pad
  • Exclusive of alcohol, taxes and resort fees

For more information or reservations, please visit www.dosbrisas.com or call 979-277-7750.

 

The Caribbean’s Cinnamon Isle

January 5, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Words by Dick Dace, Photos by Kim Coffman

If your definition of a deserted island includes seven natural pristine beaches, azure waters, and five-star cuisine, then Caneel Bay Resort is the place for you. Nestled inside the 5,000-acre United States Virgin Island National Park, the 170 acres of the Caneel Bay Resort provide blissful, beautiful access to Danish Colonial ruins, sugar estates, Arawak Indian petroglyphs, romantic picture postcard beaches, and pampering accommodations.

I was booked into room 7B, the largest room at Caneel (“cinnamon” in Dutch), complete with dressing room, dining table, lounge area and terrace, just sixty-two steps away from the sands of Paradise Beach, and a stone’s throw from the fabulous cuisine the resort offers. After enjoying the best egg-white omelet I have ever had, served with fresh tropical fruit and skillet potatoes, I was off to enjoy my first resort activity – cave diving.

One cave my companions and I dove through was just near the surface, a bare 20 feet down, where the waves pushed and pulled you inside the crevasse, like breaths of a giant beast. Once through the cave, we looked up to see a sheer wall of rock, smooth and monolithic. To our left, a giant tarpon was chasing a massive school of silver minnows, which blinded us like billions of pieces of mirror as they twisted and turned to escape. But soon physical exercise would give way to a more decidedly spiritual and relaxing take on resort life at the appropriately named Self Centre.

A mind-body-spirit retreat high in the treetops above the beach at Caneel Bay, the Centre offers a menu of mind-body approaches for stress relief, relaxation and rejuvenation. There, I enjoyed a brief Chakra Meditation, Taoist Inner-Chi Yoga and Qi Gong. Invigorated by my session, I set off to snorkel the cove of Paradise Beach.

Snorkeling through crystalline waters, I encountered aqua and purple parrot fish, and hundreds upon hundreds of conch – so evenly spaced apart, they looked like they were on a chessboard. Now, I have eaten my fair share of conch fritters and conch chowder, but I had never seen one alive. They have coal-black bodies, with spade-shaped heads and two long, thin arms they use to eat the algae growing on sea grass.

As I swam east through Turtle Bay, I spied its namesake resident, a giant green turtle with two long, bright lime-green sucker fish attached. On my return swim, I witnessed a stingray playing hide-and-seek by trying to bury itself in the sand, hopping, skipping and jumping its way before me. Now it was time to enjoy the equally impressive wonders shoreside.

That evening at dinner in the ruins of the Sugar Mill, local history expert Chuck Pishko regaled our table with tales of the rum trade, while we dined on a five-star meal of mahi-mahi served with grilled breadfruit paired with a delightful California Wine. As the torches burned down and the stars sparkled bright above our roof-less room, casual acquaintances became new friends, and promises to return to the spectacular cinnamon isle were made.

Mr. Dace and Mr. Coffman were guests of Caneel Bay Resort.

Dick Dace does Lunch for a living.

Kim Coffman is a photojournalist based in Houston.

 

Trip Resources:

 

Caneel Bay Resort, A Rosewood Hotel, www.rosewoodhotels.com

Chuck Pishko, St. John Historian, tcpishko@vipowernet.net

Chris Sawyer Diving, www.sawyerdive.vi

 

– end –

AZAMARA CLUB CRUISES ANNOUNCES 2017 VOYAGES

December 15, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

 

AZAMARA CLUB CRUISES ANNOUNCES 2017 VOYAGES


Boutique Cruise Line Will Sail to Four New Ports in New Zealand,

Seychelles, Mexico & Grand Cayman

 

MIAMI, FL (December 10, 2014) – Azamara Club Cruises®, the boutique cruise line known for its premier destination-immersive voyages, today unveiled its 2017 itineraries.  In 2017, Azamara will offer 65 voyages to 203 ports in 68 countries, including the addition of four new ports; Kaikoura, New Zealand; Mahe, Seychelles; Yucatan, Mexico and George Town, Grand Cayman.

 

Azamara will introduce new voyages including  Australia to Asia, Southern California to South Beach and Pearls Along the Indian Ocean, and also revisit travelers favorites such as the Monaco Grand Prix or take A Look Back in History, which cruises through Normandy, Holland, and Germany.

 

The leading line to offer longer stays in port overnight and night touring, travelers have the opportunity to experience true destination immersion taking in the sights, sounds and flavors of local cultures in every port through Azamara’s exclusive Land Discoveries® program.  Azamara provides exclusive tours and excursions via their Insider AccessSM and Nights and Cool PlacesSM programs, which offer curated local experiences for guests, such as a guided walk around illuminated landmarks at night, an after-hours museum visit, or access to live performances, to complement daytime explorations.  In 2015, Azamara will launch its highly-anticipated Cruise Global, Eat Local program, providing guests with the opportunity to dine at local restaurants serving authentic fare in each port.

 

“We are excited to debut our 2017 portfolio of voyages that will take our guests across the globe and provide them with even more opportunities to experience authentic culture and happenings without the hassle of researching and planning themselves.  Our programs are tailored to discovery-driven travelers and we think we’ve got some exciting new offerings that will appeal to new cruisers as well as excite our loyal guests,” said Larry Pimentel, president and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises.  “We strive to offer intellectually curious global citizens with authentic and memorable travel experiences and the new 2017 voyages further showcase our continued commitment to destination immersion.”


Winter/Spring 2017 Voyages

 

In winter and spring 2017, Azamara Quest will sail the West Indies, Panama Canal and Central America, making stops at exotic locales, including Cartagena – a historic city in Colombia, the Panama Canal – one of the seven wonders of the modern world and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – a popular resort town surrounded by the Sierra Madre Mountains.  Voyage highlights include:

–          West Indies Hideaway Voyage: On this tropical 11-night voyage, guests will embark from Miami for a cruise from island to island in the West Indies, making stops at the U.S. Virgin Islands, Nevis, St. Barts and more, while experiencing adventurous activities such as snorkeling or zip-lining in rainforests.

–          Baja California, Sea of Cortez & Copper Canyon Voyage: Embarking from San Diego for 12 nights, travelers will follow the Spaniards’ search for treasure through small Sierra Madre foothill towns in Mexico, experience a train ride through the magnificent Copper Canyon, and visit a pearl farm in Guaymas.  Guests will also have the opportunity to swim with sea lions, take a horseback ride in the dessert, go whale-watching, and visit a Spanish mission near Loreto.

 

During the same time, Azamara Journey will sail through the exotic waters of Asia, the Pacific Ocean and through the Australia and New Zealand regions during winter and spring 2017.  Voyage highlights include:

 

–          Discovering Thailand & Vietnam Voyage: On this 13-night journey, guests will cruise from Singapore for a journey through Thailand, Vietnam and China, offering travelers the opportunity to experience Southeast Asia at its finest, by both land and water.  Guests will sink their toes into a white tropical beach one day and visit a remarkable World Heritage Site the next.  From small-group tours to night markets, countryside bike rides, elegant French Vietnamese dining a quintessential night out in Bangkok, travelers will experience the vibrant cultures of Asia.

–          Australia and New Zealand Voyage: For travelers looking to dive into the outback, Azamara is featuring a 15-night voyage through Australia and New Zealand.  Embarking from Sydney, Australia the ship will make stops in Melbourne and then Tasmania, where travelers will visit Port Arthur and Hobart. Next stop on the cruise is New Zealand – a new port for Azamara – where travelers will visit a number of small villages including Dunedin, Akaroa, Napier, Tauranga, and finally the urban city of Auckland, New Zealand’s most populous city.  Guests will experience local culture with many touring choices, from coastal hiking and marine excursions to exploring art deco towns and kiwi farms, a visit to Port Arthur’s infamous penal colony, and the Maori community of Rotorua.

 

Summer – Fall 2017 Voyages

 

Throughout summer and fall 2017, Azamara Quest will sail across the idyllic Mediterranean and Black Sea region, combining historic lands of great antiquity, the sunny Greek isles with whitewashed villages cascading down hillsides, the popular Amalfi Coast, and the Riviera, glittering and glamorous.  Voyage highlights include:

 

–          Amalfi Coast and Sicily Voyage: For travelers looking to explore Italy’s iconic Amalfi coast, Croatia and Greece, this 10-night cruise from Rome is a great way to experience the spectacular scenery, delectable food and wine, charming towns, monumental cities and beautiful beaches and bays. While in Italy, guests will travel to the coastal sea town of Sorrento and Amalfi then head to Sicily, the largest and most southern point in Italy.  Following a trip to the historic island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea, travelers will head to Greece, followed by Montenegro, Croatia and finally completing at Italy’s romantic and beautiful city of Venice.

Meanwhile, Azamara Journey will cruise Northern and Western Europe in the summer and fall seasons, while also offering select voyages to the Mediterranean and Black Sea.  Cruises will embark to ports in classic and beloved European destinations such as St. Petersburg, London, Paris, Norway, Iceland and Scotland, among others.  Voyage highlights include:

 

–          British Open Voyage: For travelers with an affinity for culture and sports, this 13-night cruise offers golf fans the opportunity to attend the British Open Finals at Royal Birkdale, one of many star attractions through the Irish Sea.  Highlights of the trip include a visit to Cork, a quaint seaside town in Ireland, and a trip to Glasgow, a vibrant cosmopolitan city in Scotland. Guests will have the opportunity to hike along the spectacular Snowdonia National Park and enjoy England’s Lake District, search for Nessie at Loch Ness, visit the iconic cities of Dublin, Belfast and Edinburgh, and shop for hand loomed wool goods, Waterford crystal, and single malt Scotch whisky.

 

–          Tapas and Wine Voyage: For culinary and wine aficionados, Azamara is offering an indulgent week-long cruise along the Iberian Peninsula.  During the cruise, travelers will experience local tapas and wines in Menorca, Spain visit Gibraltar, in the United Kingdom, a strait which separates continental Europe from North Africa and complete the cruise in Lisbon, Portugal, one of the oldest cities in the world.

 

On board the Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest, guests receive exceptional and personal service and enjoy fine cuisine and boutique wines from around the world, as well as more inclusive amenities, such as included gratuities; complimentary bottled water, sodas, specialty coffee, and teas, as well as complimentary boutique wines, international beers and select standard spirits in the ships’ bars, lounges and restaurants when open; complimentary self-service laundry; English Butler service for suite guests; and shuttle transportation to city centers in ports, where available.

 

For a full list of 2017 Azamara Voyages, visit www.azamaraclubcruises.com.

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ANGEL FIRE RESORT IS SET TO OPEN THIS WEEKEND

December 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

AFTER SIGNIFICANT EARLY SEASON SNOWFALL
Resort to Open Trails This Friday

ANGEL FIRE, NM – (December 10, 2014) – Winter made a welcomed return dropping nearly 50 inches of fresh snow and very cold temperatures since October at Angel Fire Resort, located in the Southern Rockies of New Mexico. The resort has been taking advantage of the colder temperatures throughout the past six weeks making snow in anticipation of this year’s opening, set for this Friday, December 12.  The additional natural and man-made snow has allowed the resort to open more trails.

“We’ve been able to keep the systems running throughout the night since early November and our crews are working consistently to get as much out of the cold temperatures as possible,” Jamie Seifert, mountain operations manager, Angel Fire Resort. “Clearly the more natural snow we can add in is great, but in the meantime, it’s our job to get the mountain ready, so we are focusing our efforts on snowmaking and getting our mountain ready for this season.”

Beginner skiing/snowboarding trails, the bunny hill and the Angel Fire Ski School will all be open starting December 12, creating a great landscape for those just learning the sport.

MORE TERRAIN PARKS:
The Railyard, a new terrain park will open this winter off the side of the popular green trail Headin’ Home and will feature boxes, rails and jumps geared towards those new to skiing and boarding. This dedicated space will allow beginners a safe place to try out their tricks before attempting the more advanced terrain parks.

The resort is also moving the nighttime terrain park Night Rider to Exhibition. This new location is on the front side of the mountain, which will allow the park to take advantage of the best snow on the mountain. Night Rider will be open both day and night and will offer the best lighted terrain for those who wish to stay after dark. (Available on weekends and holiday peak periods.)

SPECIAL PASS – The Powder Alliance:
Angel Fire Resort is a member of the Powder Alliance – now with your season pass to Angel Fire you get 3 days of free lift tickets at 12 other ski resorts including: Crested Butte, CO, Snowbasin Resort, UT, Sierra-at-Tahoe, CA, Stevens Pass, WA, Timberline, OR, Schweitzer, ID, Bridger Bowl, MT, China Peak, CA, Mountain High, CA, Arizona Snowbowl, AZ and Mt. Hood Skibowl, OR and Silver Star, BC. The value is over $2500 per pass holder.  For more information, including details about the new Wild West Powder Quest Sweepstakes go to www.powderalliance.com.

ANA, Japan’s leading airline, to launch services to Houston

December 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

New route will expand network between Asia and the Americas

Summer schedule will also see more flights to Singapore and Bangkok

TOKYO, December 11, 2014 – ANA, Japan’s leading airline, is to launch a new route from Narita to Houston, the capital of the US oil and energy industry, from June next year as part of an expansion of its network between the Americas and the growing Asian market.

The new ANA summer schedule will also see an increase in flights from Tokyo to Singapore and Bangkok, making it easier for transfer passengers to connect between its Asian and American networks.

Houston not only enjoys significant demand for flights to Asia, but is also one the biggest hub airports for ANA’s joint venture partner United Airlines. This will enable ANA to improve access for its passengers to Central and South America via Houston. The airport has a wealth of domestic and international connections making it easier for passengers from Asian countries to fly through to various US destinations and other countries with growing business demand such as Mexico and Brazil.

ANA will increase the number of flights from Tokyo to Singapore and Bangkok by introducing twice daily services from Narita to these two cities in addition to the existing double daily service from Haneda airport. Flights from Singapore and Bangkok arriving in Narita early morning will increase the number of North American cities that can be connected and will, together with the evening flight, greatly increase the convenience of Asia-North America connections at Narita.

Osamu Shinobe, President and CEO of ANA said, “We are very pleased to be launching a new international service from Tokyo to Houston. Houston will be our tenth destination in North America and will provide a great gateway to Central and South America from Japan and many other Asian countries. Together with our joint venture partner United, we are confident that passenger demand will be high and that our expanding network will provide customers with greater choice.”​​

Global aviation leader increases capacity on its Houston-Dubai nonstop service to meet demand

December 5, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

 

Alexander Houston

Emirates Regional Sales Director Central USA, Alexander Houston, right, tours the A380 with Emirates’ Cabin Crew at George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, in Houston. (Aaron M. Sprecher/AP Images for Emirates)

Emirates, a global connector of people, places and economies, landed its first A380 at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, with the introduction of its flagship Airbus A380 aircraft to the route. Houston is Emirates’ fifth U.S. gateway serviced by an A380.

Emirates launched its Houston-Dubai service in 2007 and the route has generated strong and sustained passenger demand since its inception. The airline has transported over 1.2 million passengers between the two cities to date. The A380 up-gauge provides 137 more seats on every flight – a 38 percent increase in overall capacity and one which has been driven by consumer demand. In addition to increasing connectivity with Dubai – Emirates’ home, the up-gauge will enable more Houston-based travelers to access Emirates’ global network including 10 passenger destinations in India, 20 points in Africa and 16 in the Far East.
“Commencing A380 service to Houston will enable Emirates to grow alongside the city, which is experiencing strong economic development and the highest employment growth rate in the country,” said Hubert Frach, Emirates’ Divisional Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations West – Americas, Africa, Europe and Russian Federation. “The Houston Airport System and the University of Houston have calculated that the current contribution to the Houston economy of Emirates’ operations is $257 million. This increase in capacity will help support an even stronger contribution.”

Cargo is also an important contributor, and in the past 12 months Emirates SkyCargo has transported 10,878 US tons (9,868 metric tons) of cargo from Houston. Exports on the route include: Oil Field Equipment and Parts, Cell Phones, Drilling Mud, Air Conditioner Parts, Steel Pipes, Helicopter Blades and Chemicals.

“The City of Houston welcomes this upgrade in service from our partners at Emirates,” said Houston Mayor Annise Parker. “It’s important for the ‘Energy Capital of the World’ to enjoy a strong level of connectivity with Dubai, and the presence of this Texas-sized aircraft ensures that Houston is well positioned in that regard.”

“The arrival of this aircraft is a testament to the strength of Emirates’ route between Houston and Dubai,” said Houston Aviation Director Mario C. Diaz. “Travel between Houston and the Middle East has more than doubled within the past five years alone, and Emirates has placed itself in excellent position to capitalize on this dynamic area of growth.”

The Emirates A380 is a wide-bodied, double-decker aircraft seating 491 passengers, including 14 First Class Private Suites, 76 Business Class lie-flat beds and 401 spacious Economy Class seats. While aboard the 15-hour-and-40-minute flight from Houston to Dubai, Emirates passengers in all cabin classes will enjoy renowned service provided by a multilingual crew representing more than 130 nationalities, savor regionally inspired gourmet cuisine, stay connected via on-board Wi-Fi, and immerse themselves in the award-winning in-flight entertainment system – ice Digital Widescreen – that offers more than 1,800 channels of movies, TV programs, music and podcasts.

Emirates’ First and Business Class cabins have earned some of the most prestigious recognitions in the aviation industry for service quality and unique amenities – including Saveur Magazine’s Culinary Travel Award for Best In-Flight Dining: First Class & Business Class in 2013 and 2014. First Class passengers travel in Private Suites and can refresh in Emirates’ unique Shower Spas while in flight. First Class and Business Class passengers can also access the Emirates signature Onboard Lounge and socialize over fine wines, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres prepared by five-star chefs; travel to and from the airport via Emirates complimentary Chauffeur-drive; and relax in 37 exclusive airport lounges worldwide.

Emirates’ daily flight EK211 to Houston departs Dubai at 9:30 a.m. and arrives at 4:05 p.m. The return flight, EK212, takes off from George Bush Intercontinental Airport at 6:25 p.m. and lands in Dubai at 7:05 p.m. the next day.

(courtesy Emirates)

 

Houston: America’s New Sweetheart City

October 13, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

From the Houston Convention and Visitor’s Burea

For the first time ever this year, Houston ranked among the top five places in the nation on Travel + Leisure’s list of America’s Favorite Cities-one of the most-watched lists among destinations and a barometer of what’s top-of-mind among traveling Americans. Museum experience

As a destination, Houston has tremendous strides in recent years, with a robust arts and culture scene and ever-expanding culinary landscape. Now, the city has ranked No. 2 on the T+L list, which tallies more than 50,000 votes from readers and ranks 38 cities in dozens of categories. Houston scored among the top five for the first time in categories such as arts scene, theater, stylishness, shopping and more.

“We could not be more excited about this ranking, which we see as further proof that Houston’s story is being told and the city recognized as a destination on the national and international stages,” says Sonia Garza-Monarchi, board chair of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. “To be named a top U.S. city by the readers of one of the world’s most respected travel publications honors the work our team does on a daily basis to promote the city to conventions and tourists. That said, the real credit goes to the individual businesses and organizations in all of these sectors-from restaurants and museums to art galleries and hotels-that provide an amazing experience to those who come to our city.”

Indeed, Houston ranked high in a number of key areas, often well above where the city fell on last year’s list:

Top City Overall: 2

Galleries: 2 – 12 in 2013
Museums: 3 – 12 in 2013
Theater: 3 – 18 in 2013
Free Attractions: 4 – 26 in 2013
Art Scene: 5
Concerts: 5 – 26 in 2013

Home Décor/Design Stores: 1
Boutiques: 1 – 18 in 2013
Specialty Food Markets/Food Halls: 1
Bookstores: 2
Antiques Stores: 3 – 9 in 2013
Flea Markets: 3 – 19 in 2013
Luxury Stores: 3 – 29 in 2013

Intelligent: 2 – 20 in 2013
Stylish: 4 – 26 in 2013
Affordability: 5 – 5 in 2013
Wine Bars: 1
Cocktail Bars: 2
Singles Scene: 2

Hamburgers: 1 – 4 in 2013
Brunch: 1
Bakeries: 2
Wine Scene: 3
Barbecue: 4 – 5 in 2013
Sandwiches: 4 – 21 in 2013
Bars: 4
Coffee: 5 – 26 in 2013
Craft Beer: 5 – 22 in 2013

Visitors to the Houston region spent more than $16 billion in 2013, up from $15.5 billion the year before, according to the latest figures from the Texas Office of Economic Development and Tourism. The travel and tourism industry also supported more than 128,000 jobs in 2013, a 4.5 percent increase over 2012, the report shows.The data covers the 10-county Houston region.

Meanwhile, more than $1.5 billion in infrastructure investment is coming to the Downtown area alone in the next two years. Eight new hotels are planned, including the city’s second convention center hotel, a 1000-room Marriott Marquis. Other major changes are also planned for the George R. Brown Convention Center and the convention district, including a new pedestrian promenade, ground-level retail and restaurants and more.

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Travel to Atlantic City

September 29, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Here is a sneak peak of my recent trip to Atlantic City.  Look for the full article in our upcoming print edition.

 

Turkish Airlines Expands Business Class Seating

August 25, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Turkish Airlines, voted Europe’s Best Airline for the fourth year in a row, announced the expansion of its Business Class seating capacity from 28 to 49 seats, providing more Houstonians access to Turkish Airlines’ unparalleled in-flight service and award-winning cuisine. The expansion also coincides with the upgrade to Boeing 777 planes from Houston, which features free Wi-Fi for Business Class passengers.

Houston, one of Turkish Airlines’ six U.S. gateways, continues to thrive in the highly competitive travel industry. One of the world’s fastest growing airlines, Turkish Airlines currently flies to 260 destinations in 108 countries, making it number one in terms of countries an airline flies to. Moreover, in the first five months of 2014, Turkish Airlines experienced an 18 percent increase in passenger numbers from 18.1 million to 21.3 million compared with the same period last year. At the helm of this gateway is Adem Ekmekci, General Manager, Turkish Airlines, Houston.

Houston Business Class travelers will also be delighted to know that the airline recently revamped its Turkish Corporate Club Premium (TCCP) Program, which provides companies, organizations and business travelers a convenient and unique travel experience with countless advantages, including discounted flights, rebooking/rerouting flexibility, and exclusive baggage allowances. The program is designed to adapt to and exceed every company’s distinct needs when it comes to traveling.

Turkish Airlines is also offering the opportunity to explore Istanbul starting at $699* this fall! This beautiful Turkish city was named the number one destination worldwide in TripAdvisor’s 2014 Travelers’ Choice Awards. The airline is offering this special roundtrip flight deal from Houston to Istanbul with a purchasing period until September 15, and a travel period between October 12 and December 12, 2014.

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